Leona Ford Washington Foundation plans to encourage at April 2 Women’s Expo

Local fashion models strut down the runway of last year's women empowerment event organized by the LFW Foundation. Courtesy photo
Local fashion models strut down the runway of last year’s women empowerment event organized by the LFW Foundation. Courtesy photo

Raevyn Walker

Valley News Intern

Igniting the spark of success, the Leona Ford Washington Foundation hosts their second annual Women’s Expo at the Lake Elsinore Outlet mall April 2. Featuring a slew of female leaders throughout the day, the Expo teaches young women how to advance in a variety of careers after high school.

Although the LFW Foundation serves to support the educational endeavors of all high school students, Valerie Gleason, the foundation’s president, said that the organization chose to focus on females for this event because of the large indirect impact women have on their communities.

“We are trying to empower, enlighten and bring fun to women,” Gleason said. “We find that when the women in the home are empowered, it leads to the children in the home being more successful.”

Women not only benefit, but create every aspect of the event. The foundation sought out independent female designers to showcase their work. Gillian Larson, a “Survivor” competitor and founder of the Reality Rally charity event, will speak words of inspiration to the audience.

Even the food given to attendees is cooked by renowned female chef, Deanna Benson. Gleason hopes that every young woman who attends leaves with the message that, “You can do this. Don’t give up”

With planning beginning in July of last year, the foundation members worked to secure 20 different vendors for the event. Also, models, ranging from LFW Foundation professionals to members’ children were registered for the fashion show that culminates the event, featuring the works of local designers. Audience members can get involved in the action with a red carpet power area, proving that any woman has model potential. The entertainment cannot cloud the lifelong enrichment Gleason believes every attendee can obtain at the event with the myriad networking opportunities available.

“Hopefully, (the attendees) will seek out and find someone that they can connect with … so that they can continue beyond the two hours and utilize the information in their lives to be successful,” said Gleason.

The event arises as one of many LFW Foundation outreach programs into the community, coming after a recent scholarship opening for individuals pursuing education-oriented careers and before a black-tie gala featuring the Lake Elsinore High Jazz Band April 29.

Gleason created the LFW foundation in 2011 to honor her mother, who gave the organization its namesake.

“She was such an influential person in her community and an educator for 39 years,” said Gleason. “I wanted to keep her legacy, the energy of helping high school students succeed, alive.”

Combining her mother’s mission as a schoolteacher and Gleason’s occupation as a high school college counselor was central to goal of the organization. For Gleason, the work of the LFW Foundation, from the scholarships to the plethora of events like the Women’s Expo, “give me such a sense of accomplishment.”

An accomplishment that stands out in Gleason’s mind occurred when, “the foundation was able to help students that have never been outside of Lake Elsinore go visit places like Boston … (The students) would have never had the opportunity otherwise.”

To be a part of the opportunities available at the Women’s Expo, see the website www.lfwfoundation.org to buy tickets.

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